BY TAVLEEN SINGH, LEE ROBINSON AND SHONA LOUIS
Victoria Police is looking into an alarming social media account that accuses 80 members of the African-Australian community of rape and sexual assault.
MOJO News is not saying the allegations are true.
The site’s creator promotes it as a safe space for women to share their stories. It contains posts mostly from Melbourne and Sydney-based women.
Posts to the site accuse men of sex crimes, while identifying them with photos from their social media accounts.
The site’s creator has been threatened with legal action over the material.
The site includes women’s detailed accounts of alleged sexual assaults, with one claiming to be aged just 15.
One post makes disturbing allegations of gang rape.
“[They] move as a collective and gang rape intoxicated females at hotel parties,” the post read.
“I’ve witnessed it happen but felt helpless because they’d have their friends guard the door and get extremely aggressive whenever someone would attempt to enter the room they rape the female in.”
The posts appear to prompt other women to come forward and share their stories of being the victim of sexual assault.
Deputy Head of Journalism at Monash University Johan Lidberg said the trend of using social media to “name and shame” can have serious legal consequences.
“Alleging very serious crimes on social media without doing proper fact-checking on those claims is highly problematic,” Assoc. Prof. Lidberg said.
“If it is a private individual who doesn’t have an understanding of both media and publication law and the ethics around publication…this person could be liable for huge defamation action.”
Assoc. Prof. Lidberg said he was conflicted by the posts, as he wanted women who make allegations of sexual assault to be heard and believed, however alleged perpetrators should be considered innocent until proven guilty.
“What we have seen from the #MeToo movement is a shift to naming people much, much earlier,” Assoc. Prof. Lidberg said.
In the decade ending in 2017, more than 140,000 sexual assaults were reported to police, according to an ABC report.
When contacted, a Victoria Police spokesperson confirmed they were aware of the allegations and enquiries were being made into the legitimacy of the posts, but declined to comment further.
In Australia the national sexual assault, domestic and family violence counselling service is on 1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732).